Pegasus: Journalists, activists among targets of spyware - reports

·1-min read
 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Authoritarian governments are reportedly using hacking software to target human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world, according to an investigation into a massive data leak.

A deep dive conducted by 16 media outlets, including the Guardian, as part of a reporting consortium suggests that Israeli surveillance firm NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, is being abused.

Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails.

The claims came after a leak to Paris based organisation ‘Forbidden stories’ and Amnesty international.

It reportedly showed that NSO had a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers of people believed to be of interest to its clients, according to the Guardian.

More than 180 journalists are said to be listed in the data, including reporters, editors and executives at the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times, Reuters and others.

But the data does not reveal whether the phone was infected with Pegasus or if it was subject to a hack, the paper added.

The consortium, however, believe the data is a sign of potential “targets.”

In a statement on their website, NSO firmly denied the allegations.

“In fact, these allegations are so outrageous and far from reality, that NSO is considering a defamation lawsuit,” it added.

Although NSO denied the “false claims” it also said would it “continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action,” according to statements issued through its lawyers to the Guardian.

The investigation comes years after WhatsApp sued NSO in 2019, alleging the company was behind cyber-attacks on 1,400 mobile phones involving Pegasus.

Although it is a claim the company strongly denied - it is still banned from using WhatsApp.

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